20 October 2005 – 20 November 2005
The Last Scottish Media Monitor from Garry Otton
Starting off with Marcello Mega and another bit of shoddy reporting in Scotland on Sunday. He and Richard Gray had a go at a story on “£25k sex change for Scot at 69”. Mega wasn’t exactly stretching himself. It was a rehash of Charles Lavery’s ‘story’ from The Sunday Mail (Scottish Media Monitor July 2004). Although you would never had thought so, reading Mega or Lavery’s reports, this was the story of a gentle, retired antique shop owner from Buchlyvie in Stirlingshire who only felt comfortable enough to properly tackle his transgender status after his wife had died of Parkinson’s disease. In The Sunday Mail, Lavery had wrote: “The OAP’s sex change” had “stunned family and friends… (and) set tongues wagging… He walked into the two local pubs and the local grocer and introduced himself as Gladys. He also went to church in twin set and pearls”. The story in The Sunday Times Scotland appeared nothing more than an opportunity for Mega to exercise his own warped personal opinion describing Jim Paterson’s operation as: “Costing the taxpayer up to £25,000 for drugs, surgery and treatment…” adding that “…details of the operation have enraged some critics who believe the NHS should give priority to more clear-cut medical conditions such as hip replacements before offering expensive sex changes”. Mega really ought to drag his tired arse into the office of The Scottish Daily Mail! They thrive on these sorts of tired clichés. Mega described the decision by doctors to refer Paterson for gender reassignment as ‘remarkable’ adding: “Later this year Paterson will have breast enlargement surgery, again funded by the NHS. Asked about justifying the use of scarce NHS resources on her gender-changing treatment when many wait for months in physical pain, and even for life-saving operations, Paterson said: ‘Only I know what torment I went through for most of my life’.” Mega jumped from exploring the story from a tight-fisted angle to one of prejudice and narrow-mindedness: “…Despite getting the operation free, the surgery has not been without its costs for Paterson, and her two children have had difficulty adjusting. Friends in the village have also been left stunned, while fellow antiques dealers have greeted her with hostility at recent antiques fairs”. Cocky Mega now fancied himself as a doctor: “…However compelling the reasons for having the operation, the case has raised serious questions about the allocation of limited NHS resources. Men seeking to have gender surgery on the NHS in Scotland must first be assessed by two psychiatrists to establish there is a genuine psychological need for the operation. The patient must then live as a woman for at least a year, taking hormones to prepare the body for the change and to demonstrate commitment. Nearly half of all patients in Scotland are forced to wait more than three months for operations on the NHS. Those needing hip and joint operations to restore their movement face waits of up to nine months between referral and treatment. But Paterson was given a sex-change operation within just three weeks of being referred to a surgeon”. Mega was fortunate to find someone equally short-sighted to lend a modicum – and I’m using that word very generously - of legitimacy to a story that basked in self-opinionated gob-shite. “SNP shadow health minister Shona Robison demanded answers from health bosses about Paterson’s case… Forth Valley Health Board must defend and justify this use of public money by explaining the decision-making in this case”.
Helen Percy, a Church of Scotland minister who worked in six rural parishes in Angus, says she was forced out of her job after having an affair with a married Kirk elder. I remember reading a report in The Scottish Daily Mail a while back explaining: “The scandalised parishioners… declared Miss Percy as a witch amid tales that she preached in her nightdress…” Good ole’ modern Scotland, eh? Ms Percy wants to know why the Kirk is not taking similar action against male ministers known to have had, or were still having, extramarital relationships. Quite right, sister! Astonishingly, the employment appeal tribunal and the Court of Session in Edinburgh have both ruled they have no jurisdiction since she is employed by God! (No! I’m not fucking making this up)! They insist she isn’t employed by the Church at all! Surely, any sane person would have considered her agreeing to work as a minister constituted a contract of employment? The Herald reported: “Lords Nicholls, Hoffman, Scott and Hope, and Baroness Hale must decide how the 1921 Church of Scotland Act, which lays down the church’s right to regulate its own affairs, interacts with EU’s 1976 equal treatment directive, which provides that men and women must be treated equally at work”. The paper also reported, Kirk lawyers have insisted that under the act, “the Kirk’s power to decide all matters of doctrine, worship, government and discipline comes from Christ alone”. I expect her legal advisers will be gathering their scrolls of parchment and heading across the mountains out of Narnia to Europe with this one!
Let's salute another strong woman. Elizabeth Irons is taking Macdonald Hotels to the cleaners. The 35-year-old former director of corporate affairs alleges she was unfairly dismissed after being paid £50,000 a year less then her male colleagues. Chairman of the group, Donald Macdonald was a generous supporter of Stagecoach millionaire, Brian Souter's 'Keep the Clause'.
One of the ‘problems’ dreamed up for Old Mother (Joan) Burnie’s agonising column in The Daily Record was a man, married for over 30 years who “looked up gay channel reviews and… liked what (he) saw”. He admits: “My wife would go spare if she found out. So I can never pay for viewing them in full because I might be caught”. Allow me a word in your shell-like… Is penning your thoughts to Old Mother Burnie - who you ought to know won’t exactly be enthralled by your activities - really wise? And as for being caught out; Gay TV doesn’t appear on your credit card statements. Old Mother Burnie ‘advised’: “The trouble starts when we make what is no more than a fantasy into a reality. Looking at these previews is a sort of half-way house, giving you a wee thrill without too much risk. So you would be well-advised to stick with them and not move on to anything that might seriously threaten your marriage or get you into something altogether murkier and nastier than this fairly mild porn”. For a man describing himself as “not gay”, I’ve no doubt this “half-way house” will be about as stimulating as popping a condom over a banana! I hope he’s already shaken off convent-educated Old Mother Burnie’s warnings and submitted to a perfectly natural desire to input four digits on the screen-remote and toss himself off silly. I’m quite sure even Old Mother Burnie would approve of the false groans and limp dicks that comprise much of Gay TV’s content. Take a leaf out of my book, my dear, and know when you’ve had your day.
If it is the media that limits and contracts expressions of sexuality, the government regulates it. Government, police, judiciary and let’s not forget local government. Not too outrageous for even The Scottish Daily Mail to print in full colour and label “inoffensive” was an advert for the Savannah Beauty Centre in Jordanhill featuring a woman lying down with four pebbles on her back destined for the side of black cabs. With not even her breasts visible, Glasgow City Council passed the smelling salts round City Chambers. The Scottish Daily Mail – yes, you read that correctly – gasped: “…Incredibly, bosses at Scotland’s largest council have ruled the advert is too racy to be shown on the side of taxis”. There was bound to be a sting in Grace Macaskill’s report in this paper which described in length the City Council’s otherwise ‘liberal’ credentials: “Council chiefs and the Scottish Arts Council funded the bulk of the £100,000 needed for the Glasgay! Festival – labelled ‘Scotland’s annual celebration of queer culture’ – currently on in the city. The month-long event features shows such as Sex addict and Cock Tales…” (Did you know, not one single asterisk was used to conceal The Scottish Daily Mail’s “cock”)? Grace sniffed: “The same councillors who appear not to blink an eye at these events believe the massage adverts are too sexy for Glaswegians”. Recently the Council also banned advertisements that had been carried on the side of cabs in London, Liverpool and Bristol by Triumph advertising sexy lingerie. The Council’s policy – which a good number would find offensive - forbids nude or semi-nude advertising. It clearly indicates that the deadwood and their feminist friends banning the Erotic exhibition ten years ago are still bouncing off the white marble. With impending legal action on the part of the Beauty Centre, it would be interesting to know what this Council’s arbitrary moral campaigns have cost the public purse.
This is my last Scottish Media Monitor. It seems the wheel has turned full circle. This column began life only months after the murder of Michael Doran in Glasgow’s Queen’s Park. And now, months after the brutal murder of young Jodi Dobrowski on London’s Clapham Common, the Media Monitor is winding down. Ten years ago, I wanted to write an article that wrote positively and honestly about outdoor sex. The Herald’s features editor was cagey and told me to come back when something newsworthy came up. It did. Michael Doran was murdered. The excuse not to go to print changed to ‘a shortage of newsprint’ while some hasty arrangements were made to find a trusted journalist to knock something up for the paper and drop in a couple of my quotes. Nice safe ones. Nothing that might upset anyone. Ten years on and I’m called by The Sunday Herald’s Susan Flockhart who’d read allmediascotlands.com’s report on the demise of the Scottish Media Monitor. I was, at first, delighted. The Sunday Herald is one of Scotland’s better papers and features one of my favourite columnists, Muriel Gray. Ms Flockhart invited me to write a piece for Seven Days but I was soon being advised to make substantial cuts and changes. This included omitting my opinion that the sexualisation of the Dunblane massacre had led to campaigns like The Daily Record’s PervertWatch. Apparently, she said, Sunday Herald readers wouldn’t understand it! At the last minute, the article was pulled and I was given more time to make alterations. Yet, however many alterations I made, it never seemed to be enough, until finally, I was told my style would not translate into this newspaper and was urged to allow my story to be written, instead, by Professor Brian McNair, from Stirling University. The article appeared the following Sunday describing my column as “radical”. I’ll tell you what’s “radical”. Days later in The Herald, another Professor, John Haldane was reported having been chosen by the Catholic Church to promote its values, (including the denial of our human rights). The Herald described him as “a leading thinker” and clearly didn’t see any point commissioning someone to tone down his vile opinions or question the generous provisions of a platform for them. He had already shared with The Herald his opinion on gay sex: “The primary function of sexual activity remains that of reproduction. Homosexual activity, like the intentional consumption of indigestible material or the continuing and deliberate regurgitation of food, is a misuse of natural human capacities”. This “thinker” has enjoyed numerous opportunities in The Herald to proselytise and now claimed he wanted to “reclaim Europe for Christianity”. He warned: “The church has to engage with artists, writers, musicians and speak through radio, television and the print media in an effort to try to re-transcendentalise things…” Sure enough, days later and BBC Radio Scotland was interrupting the morning news with his propaganda under the guise of ‘Thought for the Day’ or some other condescending claptrap.
Professor Brian McNair seemed to have forgotten that proposed legislation making attacks on religion a criminal offence have made it impossible for me to continue writing the Scottish Media Monitor. His article was accompanied by a comfy photo of celebrity couple Justin Ryan and Colin McAllister, allowing McNair to enthuse on some “glint of sunshine on the horizon” before going on to indulge himself in his opinion on the “steady, progressive transformation we have seen in public attitudes to homosexuality and gay rights…” He believed that should the ‘incitement to religious hatred’ bill become law, “interpretation will be a matter for the courts, which may take a more relaxed view of what constitutes incitement to religious hatred…” The law is indeed a matter for the courts and the Attorney General, appointed by whatever government is in power. McNair assured readers that “Justin and Colin is a reminder that the legislative progress in gay rights has been accompanied by a transformation in the treatment of homosexuality in popular culture”. I spotted an example of this ‘transformation’ later in The Sunday Mail when, using a trusty stereotype, it was reported Justin was “unable to control his excitement” over a wish to attend the wedding of Elton John and David Furnish. Nonetheless, McNair trotted out a list of concessions awarded to gays in the past ten years, omitting to mention that none of the legislation originated in Scotland and most being forced on Westminster by the European Courts. Such developments led him to explain “why we have come to view homosexuality as unremarkable”, insisting: “…homosexuality has been normalised”. On what evidence? He referred to: “Mouthy moral guardians who occupy many of our pulpits and tabloid columns”. But they are in equal abundance in the broadsheets. Perhaps he already knew this, that’s why he was writing about the Scottish Media Monitor in The Sunday Herald and not me! As for the ‘mouthy moral guardians’ - which I certainly wasn’t afraid to name and shame in my article - McNair skipped lightly over them and insisted: “I for one don’t see the results of their protests in legislation…” No? And you’ve been asked to write about the Scottish Media Monitor? What about the real threat to me of six months imprisonment should the pending bill, giving special protection to religionists, become law? Did he read, in the same paper, how the Scottish Executive had been funding, to the tune of £10,000 a year, the efforts of the charity, Fertility Care Scotland (FCS) to give ‘religious and moral education’ in schools? The FCS also receives funding from the Catholic Church and charges schools ‘tutor fees’ to promote its ‘pro-abstinence’ message which urges teenagers to refrain from sex. A message that been propagated by the Church for hundreds of years in Scotland and has categorically failed. Perhaps someone more qualified than Brian McNair would’ve drawn readers attention to amendments instigated by moral campaigners to some of the legislation that has already gone through parliament. But it’s too late now. I’m collecting my coat and I’m halfway out the door. The upside of all this is that I now mistrust the Scottish media so much I’ve started to think for myself! I hope you will too. We owe that much to them! I am part of a community that bore witness to the vile ‘Keep the Clause’ campaign. I read the pages that fanned their flames. NEVER AGAIN!
As I see it, over the past ten years it is not so much the media that has changed - their circulation has continued to dwindle - but sexuality itself. The Internet has brought about a sexual revolution. The whole media-promoted definitions of sexuality are under threat. Experimentation is on the increase. So much of which has unconditionally been described as either ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ is morphing into the new sexually fashionable ‘BiCurious’, which, although as dishonest as its forebears, encompasses a world of ‘dogging’, ménage a trios and sexual orgy, with the sexual emphasis changing to fit whoever chooses to wear it, be they two Swedish porn stars and a lucky guy in Lesbian Lust, or Diega Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal and the lucky girl in Y Tu Mamá También. Likewise, reactions to the possibility of same-gender sex, of the cross-dressing kind that sent Begbie into a violent rage in Trainspotting, (1996) or Jimmy vomiting down the pan in The Crying Game, (1992) is beginning to look dated. It is all freely available now, on the Internet or in a lay-by near you. Gays too are invited to experiment in this new arena: A sort of sexual halfway house. Instead of finding themselves barred by the language of exclusion, many have felt permitted to try it. Just don’t look to the Scottish media when you want to see anyone enjoying sex. Our sexual history was once measured by the criminal reports of yesteryear. Today, the evolution of the new sexually ‘curious’ will more likely be found behind the moral high dudgeon of the nation’s press. Some things never change.
I want say ‘thank you’ to ScotsGay editor, John Hein. He is one of Scotland’s sharpest and talented writers who ought to be – but of course isn’t – replacing any one of Scotland’s tired columnists. I will not allow his generosity - sweeping aside a gym full of nice pecs to keep me a centrefold long past my sell-by date - to pass unmentioned. Thanks also to Dominic D’Angelo former editor of Gay Scotland who started it. Charlie Cov, Professor Dick, Douglas and Melvin of The Control Panel; Brian Deans; Wayne; Susan; Gordon (Pulse editor); Neil and his gang @ Alienation for giving me nearly 1,000 hits a day; Christopher Brookmyre; Ann Coltart at the National Union of Journalists; Tim Hopkins; Karen Hetherington; Dr Richard Hillman; Radio Magnetic (née SubCity); Glasgow Women’s Library; the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence; Outrage!; Gay Times editor Vicky Powell (the best since Denis Lemon); Terry Sanderson and of course, Saint Peter Tatchell. To everyone who supported the Scottish Media Monitor, from the loyal fans to the smug, homophobic, morally conservative fuckwits who’ve kept Scotland in the Dark Ages for so long. What were your names again…? Thank you. It’s been fun!
Next month: EXCLUSIVE TO SCOTSGAY: Garry Otton’s full, unedited article ‘Ten Years of the Scottish Media Monitor’.
ScotsGay supports the work of Outrage! PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT. Donations welcome. http://www.outrage.org.uk /
CUT IT OUT
“As Scotland’s first First Minister, Mr Dewar was an almost unmitigated disaster. His 18 months in office were dominated by… the poisonous, wholly unnecessary row over Section 28…” John MacLeod in The Scottish Daily Mail.
“Mr Dewar had little insight to character and Wendy Alexander – his most notable protégé, with vast brains, minimal charm and scant common sense – proved the administration’s Achilles heel”. John MacLeod in The Scottish Daily Mail. She’s such a bitch! (And I’m no talking ‘bout oor Wendy)! Throwing muck where he could find it at Donald Dewar, he adds: “And there was the gays-in-school thing”. Wha??
“Poor Dewar was at the sharp end of this rise, with his glasses bent, his trousers bespattered and his tie an irresistible target to Glasgow’s ever-increasing bands of rather pathetic hooligans. Not that I don’t have some sympathy for the whole idea of cocking a snook at Dewar, who, I’m afraid, I never really viewed as the ‘father of the nation’.” Mrs Katie Grant in The Sunday Times Scotland.
Scotland on Sunday’s resident homophobe, a furious Gerald Warner after the demise of the Tories in Scotland: “…When the pig-headed fatuity of the ‘galactically bright’ Wendy Alexander, in her crusade over Section 28, destroyed for ever the relationship between Holyrood and the public, the Tories allowed a bus magnate to hijack a campaign for family values that was tailor-made for them. While people outside Holyrood organised an independent referendum in which a third of the electorate participated, with more than a million voting to keep the clause, Brian Monteith was devising ever more Byzantine amendments, when the uncompromising message should simply have been No”.
Muriel Gray pointing out some discrepancies in the government’s plans for reform in its education white paper in The Sunday Herald: “…Allowing religious nutcases to set up even more ‘faith’ schools with our tax money in which to ritually abuse innocent children’s minds and ensure that there will always be a nice new generation of irrational, vain, self-obsessed bigots to keep conflict alive”.